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How to Harvest and Store Parsnips

Fresh harvested parsnips.
Harvested parsnips

Harvest parsnips in autumn and winter. Where the ground freezes hard in winter, harvest parsnips before the freeze. Where the ground does not freeze, parsnips can be harvested from the garden as needed. Parsnips overwintered should all be lifted before new growth begins in spring.

When to Harvest Parsnips

  • Parsnips are ready for lifting 100 to 120 days from seeding.
  • Harvest parsnips when roots reach full size, about 1½ to 2 inches (3-8 cm) in diameter and 8 to 12 inches (20-30 cm) long.
  • Parsnip roots are best lifted in late fall after they have been exposed to several moderate freezes.
  • Temperatures below °30F (-1°C) convert root starches to sugars giving parsnips a sweet, nut-like flavor.
  • Parsnips can be left in the garden and harvested through the winter, but after new growth begins in spring, the roots lose flavor and will become lean, limp, tough, and stringy.
Parsnip plants near harvest
Lift parsnips carefully; damaged and bruised roots do not store well.

How to Harvest Parsnips

  • Use a digging fork to loosen the soil around parsnip roots.
  • Lift roots carefully; damaged and bruised roots do not store well.
Parsnip harvest
Trim away all but ½ inch of foliage and brush away soil before storing parsnips.

How to Store Parsnips

  • Trim away all but ½ inch of foliage and brush away soil before storing parsnips.
  • Store parsnips cold and moist, 32°-40°F (0°-4°C) and 95 percent relative humidity. Place roots in a perforated plastic bag in the vegetable crisper drawer of the refrigerator. A refrigerator provides the cold, but also dries the air; placing parsnips in a perforated plastic bag creates a moist environment.
  • Parsnips also can be stored in the garden, root cellar, or garage.
  • Store parsnips in the garden if the soil can be insulated from freezing. Keep the soil at 35° to 40°F (2°-4° C) by putting a 10- to a 12-inch-thick layer of leaves, hay, or straw mulch over the rows; extend the mulch on both sides of each row by another 18 inches or more. This should protect roots even beneath two feet of snow. Dig roots through the winter as needed. If parsnips stay in the ground all winter, harvest them before new top growth starts in spring.
  • If roots can’t be protected from freezing soil, dig them up and store them in a root cellar or basement or in a garage where the temperature is about 32° to 38°F (0°-3°C); store roots in a bucket or wooden box filled with just damp sand, peat moss, or sawdust. Pack the roots so that they are insulated and covered and do not touch one another; some moist air must be able to circulate so don’t completely seal the container.
  • Parsnips will store for 4 to 6 months.
  • Check roots during storage and remove those that begin to deteriorate.
  • Do not store parsnips with apples or pears; those fruits emit natural ethylene gas which causes parsnip roots to become bitter.

More tips: How to Grow Parsnips.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. Harvesttotable.com has more than 10 million visitors each year.

Comments

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  1. We have stored parsnips in a plastic storage tub, in our garage for years. They are layered with sand, kept moist with weekly sprinkling of water. Tub covered with sheet of cardboard to block light but not sealed. Never harvested before Dec where here (Halifax, NS) ground freeze up sometimes starts. By this time garage T is usually around 6-8C.
    My question is, even moist and in darkness, parsnips start to regrow their tops which eventually starts to soften the root. Is there a way to prevent new growth?

    • Try to place your storage tub where the temperature is close to freezing; it is likely the soil is warm enough to trigger new growth.

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